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George Wilson: Players don't trust appeals process

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills union representative George Wilson senses his NFL brothers don't have faith in the way Commissioner Roger Goodell handles player discipline.

Wilson, the Bills' strong safety and defensive captain, spoke about it Sunday with SiriusXM NFL Radio co-hosts Zig Fracassi and Gil Brandt.

"A lot of guys really don't see the logic or the reasoning behind even filing appeals," Wilson said, "because you're appealing to the same judge who issued the discipline that he felt was needed to punish the offense.

WilsonGUni"Guys don't figure it's a just system when you're appealing to the same judge who issued out the discipline. How many judges do you know are going to overturn a ruling that they made? They're not going to do that. It makes them look incompetent."

Wilson noted the players are happy overall with the collective bargaining agreement signed last summer.

Of the few problems, Wilson said "The most glaring one, I think, is the commissioner's discipline, how he's the judge, jury and executioner of all disciplinary infractions that take place by league employees and players.

"I think that's the biggest concern. ... We're still working on that. I'm really not for sure if any progress has been made on that issue, but I think that's something that concerns a lot of guys around the NFL."

Goodell's power has been most obvious throughout the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. He doled out substantial penalties -- head coach Sean Payton was suspended a full season, for instance -- and rejected the appeals with gusto.

Fracassi (a Niagara Catholic grad) asked if the NFL Players' Association was forced to concede Goodell's appellate authority during CBA negotiations.

"The information I received and the information I had when I placed my vote was that on player discipline, a mediator will be brought in on anything over a $50,000 fine," Wilson said. "That was my understanding and why I voted in favor of the CBA because I felt like anything over $50,000 that the Players' Association along with a mediator would be brought in to hash out and resolve the matter.

"Whereas now, it seems as if we're still under the same system that's been in place since Commissioner Goodell has taken over as commissioner."

Wilson's right. The system is rigged. But frustrated players have only themselves to blame. Goodell's authority was collectively bargained, after all.

The union signed off on it -- maybe in exchange for not playing 18 regular-season games or for a more relaxed offseason workout calendar or for not adopting the HGH program the league wants. There are compromises and tradeoffs to negotiations.

Goodell publicly stated last year he was unwilling to renounce that power, and the NFL Players' Association didn't budge him.

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |